There is no escape from cyberspace and risks associated with it. Therefore, we need strategies to minimise our risks, says Dr Anupam Saraph
Who is the custodian of your digital assets? Do you have a strategy to de-risk and protect yourself from the modern messiahs promising the wonders of the digital age? Is it really worth the risk to have your smartphone run your life? These were some of the questions raised, and answered, by Dr Anupam Saraph at a seminar organised by Moneylife Foundation in Mumbai on “Don’t Become a Victim of Cyber Fraud: Protect Yourself Now”.
Dr Saraph, former IT advisor to the chief minister of Goa, Manohar Parrikar, and former CIO of Pune city, said one needs to understand the risks associated with transactions in cyberspace, implications of data leaks and privacy breaches through social media or email transactions and the remedies.
“There is no escape from the cyberspace and risks associated with it. Therefore, we need to have a strategy to minimise our risks. This includes, protection from obsolescence, protection from unfair practices, protecting identity and digital assets,” he said. He urged people to think for themselves, rather than offering them ready solutions.
Talking about net-neutrality, he said, when the net-neutrality was threatened in the United States, president Barack Obama himself took a stand and did all he could to ensure that net-neutrality was not compromised. Net-neutrality allows fair, just, unrestricted and non-monopolised access to the Internet; access is agnostic to the media and content consumed by its customers across the network. Explaining why net-neutrality is worth fighting for, he said that it will force all other entities, services and publications, which were not part of the select ‘free’ access sites, to pay to be on the free Internet platform.
Making representations of ‘free’ or ‘zero’ Internet plans, when providing a bouquet of websites, are unfair trade practice. Providing a few websites while creating misleading representations of providing Internet access, or about the utility of the free plans, is also an unfair trade practice. Ultimately, this will limit the unlimited access to the worldwide web that we enjoy today or increase costs dramatically.
“The systems or websites should have audit-ability, which will have ability to track back a transaction to a person. This will also ensure transacting parties does not deny transaction,” he added.
Dr Saraph, who had worked with Malcolm Slesser, et al, in Edinburgh in the late-1990s to develop the ECCO (Evolution, Complexity and Cognition) modelling paradigm for assessing the economic and energy potential of nations and regions, said, “To protect yourself from obsolescence, you need to use open source formats to store digital assets, upgrade back-ups to current media and avoid using digital platforms that evolve fast.”
Cyber-crime and privacy breach in India has been growing exponentially. Dr Saraph concluded with the advice: “In this scenario, remember your identity, assets and existence are at stake and you only are responsible for your security. So, the next time you are online, be vigilant and try to minimise your risks.”
ECCO: Evolution, Complexity and Cognition
The Supreme Court of India, in response to a clutch of public interest petitions, has made it clear, for the sixth time, that the Aadhaar number cannot be made mandatory by the government for any benefits or services; it is voluntary.
Answering queries on the issue, Dr Saraph clarified that Aadhaar is just a number which has not been verified and authenticated by any government authority. He said, the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) had disclosed this in response to Right to Information (RTI) queries. Unfortunately, several government departments are violating the Supreme Court’s orders and making it mandatory. Asked what could be done in such cases, Dr Saraph’s suggestion was that people should lodge grievance on the government complaints portal at this link http://www.pgportal.gov.in/GrievanceNew.aspx
With the Aadhaar numbers being widely copied and distributed across the country, there is no way to tell where your Aadhaar number was used by whom through what API (application programme interface), exposing your digital assets to the possibility of being completely siphoned off. Like most of us, the government neither knows nor has an inventory of its digital assets. Certifying or appostiling digital assets are unheard of.
Whether it is survey of maps of India, passports, birth certificates—or even Aadhaar numbers—the government knows no way to certify, verify and audit its digital assets, he said.